Friday 26 November 2010


(un)Happy Anniversary: on Saturday, September 27, the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan will have lasted longer than that of the Soviets in the 1980s — and there's no end in sight

Overeager Petraeus ignored signs of Taliban imposter

By Gareth Porter
InterPress Service

The incredible shrinking withdrawal

By Tom Englehardt

For U.S., Afghan occupation worse than Vietnam

By Robert Wright
The New York Times
24 November 2010, WASHINGTON — The revelation that the man presumed to be a high-ranking Taliban leader who had met with top Afghan officials was an imposter sheds new light on Gen. David Petraeus's aggressive propaganda about the supposed Taliban approach to the Hamid Karzai regime.

Ever since August, Petraeus had been playing up the Taliban's supposed willingness to talk peace with Karzai as a development that paralleled the success he had claimed in splitting the Sunni insurgency in Iraq in 2007. — Read the full article at InterPress Service, 1,188 words.

23 November 2010 —  Going, going, gone! You can almost hear the announcer’s voice throbbing with excitement, only we’re not talking about home runs here, but about the disappearing date on which, for the United States and its military, the Afghan War will officially end.

Practically speaking, the answer to when it will be over is: just this side of never. If you take the word of our Afghan War commander, the secretary of defense, and top officials of the Obama administration and NATO, we’re not leaving any time soon. — Read the full article at, 3,447 word.

23 November 2010 — “We did the Cole and we wanted the United States to react. And if they reacted, they are going to invade Afghanistan and that’s what we want … . Then we will start holy war against the Americans, exactly like the Soviets.” — Mohammed Atef, military commander of Al Qaeda, in November of 2000.
You have to give the people at Al Qaeda this much: They plan ahead. And they stick with their goals. If bombing the U.S.S. Cole failed to get American troops mired in Afghanistan, maybe 9/11 would do the trick? — Read the full article at The New York Times, 1,260 words.
  Cartoon by Mike Thompson,, 22 November 2010  

More business as usual ...

Crime and (no) punishment

Investigators agree police assaulted civilians at G20 protests, but no charges will be laid

CBC News

25 November 2010 — An Ontario police watchdog is not holding any officers accountable for separate incidents in which it says excessive force was likely used against two civilians at a G20 protest in Toronto.

The province's Special Investigations Unit, which probes police operations where civilians are hurt or killed, on Thursday released the results of its investigation into six complaints of police brutality during last June's G20 summit.

The six men in question all complained that they were injured when law enforcement officers used excessive force against them at various locations across Toronto's downtown on June 26. One man had his arm broken in an interaction with an officer, while another two suffered facial fractures. — Read the full article at CBC News, words.

Our readers write
'Don't sweat the negative stuff!'
Well, hello Dolly! Aren't we cheerful today! I try to read Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair's weekly article whenever possible and this Sunday is one of those days. I notice she picked up on Oprah's theme of favourites and led us through a string of feel-good treats. What a great way to get people in the mood for the holidays and out of the work day rut! Don't sweat the negative stuff! Let's be thankful for the good things in life and the future ones to come. "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" and "Let the Good Times Roll!" are a few songs that get my motor running. — Michel Châtelain, Gatineau, Qué.

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Guest Editorial
True North Perspective
Vol. 5, No. 50 (254)
Friday, November 26, 2010

Crisis in the Koreas — with the antogonists out of ideas, now is the time for countries like Canada to inject a moderating influence before 'accidental war' becomes all-out war

By Eric Weingartner
CanKor Report
Erich Weingartner is the volunteer editor of CanKor Report (Canada-Korea Report). He has lived and worked in the Koreas for the United Nations and for a few years after he returned to Canada he was employed by various Canadian church organizations to promote understanding of Korea.  He lives in Calendar, Ontario. — Stephen L. Endicott.
Having just returned from Seoul, where I attended the highly successful 2010 International Conference on Humanitarian and Development Assistance to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) from 15-17 November 2010, I expected this issue of the CanKor Report to bring highlights of current thinking on development cooperation in North Korea. As is often the case with the DPRK, dramatic events tend to overtake careful analysis and prudent planning. What you will read in this issue will therefore revolve around the new provocations in the Yellow Sea (or the “West Sea” as preferred by Koreans). — Read the full article inside, 403 words.
"News is what (certain) people want to keep hidden. Everything else is just publicity."
-- PBS journalist Bill Moyers.
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Harper's stacked Senate kills climate bill

Democracy thrown out with the environment

By Elizabeth May
Times Colonist

20 November 2010 — The Stephen Harper-controlled Senate delivered a brutal blow to climate action -- and democracy itself -- this week when it killed the Climate Change Accountability Act.

The NDP private members bill, which passed the House of Commons last May, required five-year plans to tackle reductions in greenhouse gases based on targets derived from scientific advice.

Prime Minister Harper labelled the bill "irresponsible," and claimed it threatened "millions" of Canadian jobs.

The bill, however, did not dictate specific polices. It was up to the government to choose how the targets were met. The facts do not support the claim that it is impossible to meet targets without losing millions of jobs. — Read the full article at the Times Colonist, 610 words.

Railroads vs shippers: power-struggle coming to a head

Raw politics going unnoticed

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

Business stories generally get short shrift in politics addicted Ottawa and as a result few Canadians are hearing about the power struggle between the Canadian railways and the bulk of their customers.

The dispute dwarfs the proposed takeover of Potash Corp. in economic consequences but MPs don’t talk about it in public. Partly that’s because no one has a practical solution yet.

That may change once the final report of the Rail Freight Service Panel becomes public in the New Year. Its interim report in October quickly became a hot potato as both the railways and 18 industry associations allied under the banner of the Coalition of Rail Shippers disputed its findings and conclusions.

It basically said that CN and CP benefit from market dominance and aren’t providing the reliable and predictable freight transportation that grain, fertilizer, forest products and other large shippers want. — Read the full article inside, 718 words.

Corporate buyouts signal the end of the family farm

Investment funds aren't only shopping in the Third World

By Paul Waldie and Jessica Leeder
The Globe and Mail
25 November 2010 — Larry Spratt was combining with his father on their grain farm near Melfort, Sask., last November when a car pulled up along a nearby highway.

Out jumped Wally Johnston, a former Ontario farmer and now a vice-president at Bonnefield Financial, a Toronto-based investment firm. Mr. Johnston waved the Spratts over for a chat. “He said he was touring around Saskatchewan trying to meet farmers and we talked to him for a while,” Mr. Spratt recalls.

Mr. Johnston explained that Bonnefield was looking to buy farmland for investors and then lease it back to farmers to operate. The Spratts had heard the pitch before. They knew several farmers who had signed up with other investment companies and land prices in the area had been soaring as a result. Some farms were going for as much as $1,200 an acre, more than double the price in other parts of the province. Read the full article at The Globe and Mail, 1,442 words.

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

True North Perspective
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more:

26 November 2010 2010 marks the 21st anniversary of Universal Children’s Day and although 193 countries have ratified the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child), Somalia and the United States have not yet given it legal force, although they have signed it. In Canada, “Child Day” is celebrated on November 20th

Of course, in most Canadian schools, students, teachers and principals held their special event on Friday the 19th. My grandchildren enjoyed going to school in their pajamas that day. Huge platters of fresh fruit were served for the occasion. Their special guest was none other than archbishop Prendergast who took part in the celebration.. — Read the full article inside, 1,069 words.

Spirit Quest

Long live the Spirit of The Wolf!

(Erstwhile Esquire Magazine of Frankford, Ontario)

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

26 November 2010 — “Hanns, are you trying to emulate Esquire Magazine?” my teacher demanded.
That rather glossy magazine was best known for its glamour photos and drawings of luscious, well-developed beauties by an artist known as Varga, thus the Varga Girls. Each issue had as a centrefold one of his, or God’s, creations.
Although I had a normal measure of appreciation of the fairer sex (sic) I found that Esquire also contained the best fiction, by writers such as Herman Wouk (Youngblood Hawke, The Cane Mutiny). I learned a great deal from these masters of prose. So perhaps my teacher was right when as editor of the Frankford Continuation School Wolf, our monthly school paper, I tried more or less successfully to model my periodical on this famous publication. In those days "wolf" had a more lascivious connotation.
We were a small school, only 65 students, 4 grades and two teachers. The school was located about 12 kms north of Trenton on the beautiful Trent River. Read the full article inside, 614 words.

A tale of two cafes

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

On my way home from my morning swim  at the McCormick Community Centre, I usually stop off at my favorite cafe, Capital Espresso on Queen St. to relax and read the paper.
As I enter, from behind the coffee counter Maggie greets me cheerfully, “Hi Frances”, and passes me my regular Americano espresso.  In front of Maggie, on the counter, is a delicious assortment of Maggie’s special homemade muffins.
These muffins are to die for. — Read the full article inside, 587 words.
'Just Give Money to the Poor' — an idea whose time has come?
'You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots.'
By Erin Anderssen
The Globe and Mail
19 November 2010 — Nicole Gray, a 24-year-old single mother living in Victoria, feels like a “beggar” every time she has to go into a government office and ask for help to pay her bills.

She has finished her diploma to be an office medical assistant despite having gotten pregnant as a teenager. But job losses and the difficulty of raising her son, now 7, on her own have made her income unpredictable. Meanwhile, she says, the system is suspicious of every request and doubts every word.

There are hundreds of rules. She has been sent away because she was missing one document. She has had to justify a no-contact order against her son's father and had a caseworker scrutinize every detail of her bank account. Every interrogation “makes you feel very low to the ground,” she says. And the worst, she says, is that you learn quickly “that you can't count on anything.”

But what if we gave Ms. Gray and other poor Canadians something to count on: cash directly in their pockets, with no conditions, trusting people to do what's right for them? It's a bold idea, and it runs counter to the paternal approach to poverty that polices what is done with “our” money and tries to strong-arm the poor into better lives. — Read the full article at The Globe and Mail,  1,760 words.

Always worth repeating

'Give us the tools and we'll finish the job'

— Winston Churchill

Let's say that news throughout human time has been free. Take that time when Ugh Wayne went over to the cave of Mugh Payne with news that the chief of his group had broken a leg while chasing his laughing wife around the fire. That news was given freely and received as such with much knowing smiles and smirks to say nothing of grunts of approval or disapproval. — 688 words.

Corporate America has best quarter in US history as real unemployment rate soars

By Stephen C. Webster
23 November 2010 — Even amid the most turbulent economic conditions since the Great Depression, US corporate profits are at an all time high, according to a Tuesday report [PDF link] by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.
At the same time, America's poor and middle classes are under siege, with a mostly stagnant job market that has shown only marginal signs of improvement.
In spite of meager growth in some sectors, the real unemployment rate remains high, at approximately 1 in 5 Americans.
Yet for seven fiscal quarters running -- since President Obama's election -- American corporate profits have shown strong growth. — Read the full article at, 409 words.

Refreshed rightwing in U.S. congress beat wardrums against spread of democracy in Latin America

They use the term 'democracy' to mask their preference for military coups and dictatorships

By Eva Golinger
Postcards from the Revolution

19 November 2010 Members of the extreme Latin American rightwing, many of whom have participated in coups d’état and acts of destabilization and terrorism, held a meeting last Wednesday in Washington with high-level representatives of the US Congress. The event is evidence of an escalation in US aggression toward the region.

The new conference room in the US Congressional Visitors Center hosted a meeting titled “Danger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights, and Inter-American Security,” last Wednesday, November 17.

The subjects discussed during this spectacle hosted by the US Congress evidence an escalation in aggression against countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua – all members of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) – and included “debates” centered around three primary questions: Read the full article at The, words.

Globovision owner accused of plotting

to assassinate Venezulan president Chavez

23 November 2010, MERIDA – On Saturday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez denounced plans by opposition forces to offer US$100 million to assassinate him.

He said fugitive media mogul Guillermo Zuloaga was partly responsible for the plot, and that Zuloaga’s television station, Globovision, could face government intervention as a result.

“They are collecting money to pay someone to kill me,” said Chávez on Saturday. “As I understand it, from very trustworthy information, they say they have US$100 million to give to the person who kills me.” — Read the full article inside, 866 words.

Covering violence and trauma 

'Since 2006, 34 journalists and media workers have been assassinated in Mexico.'

Journalist on the run

The vast majority of Mexicans who apply for refugee status in Canada are rejected. Luis Horacio Najera is an exception. He spent years as an investigative reporter in the badlands along the Mexico-U.S. border, writing stories on the drug trade and corruption. Then one day he learned his name was on a death list. Claude Adams takes up the story. — Read the full article at The Canadian Journalism Project, 1,301 words.

Visual Journalism

'He tells his boss that today’s photo should be from a car bombing that killed 200 people, except he’s nowhere near the city, so the editor tells him, send what you have. So the bombing story is never told.'

Always act normal: photographer explores conflict journalism
The first rule of conflict photography: never let your boss know you’re anything but “normal.” The second rule: don’t get killed. Photog is a new media mash-up of true stories from conflict photojournalists, quoted verbatim but told as first-person events by the fictional Thomas Smith. Dana Lacey reviews. — Read the full article at The Canadian Journalism Project, 854 words.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelan students march for new law to enhance university education

On November 21, 1957, a group of university students in Caracas interrupted a cardiology conference being held at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and denounced the crimes of the Marcos Pérez Jiménez dictatorship in place at the time. Considered the beginning of the end of the Jiménez period, this student action was ratified one year later by governmental decree, giving birth to Venezuela’s Day of the University Student.

By Juan Reardon

23 November 2010, MERIDA – Tens of thousands of Venezuelan students marched through Caracas on Sunday to celebrate the Day of the University Student and to pressure the National Assembly to pass a new law for university-level education.

Students marched from the main campus of the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV) to Miraflores Palace and were joined by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Minister of Higher Education Edgardo Ramirez, as well as other cabinet members. In his speech to the crowd, Chávez called on students to look beyond any differences and form a “united, national student movement” to defend the Bolivarian Revolution.

— Read the full article at, 795 words.

Rear-view Mirror

The slow death of the American mind: a case study

Chandler Davis and the origin of America's intellectual vacuum

By Chris Hedges

15 November 2010 — The blacklisted mathematics instructor Chandler Davis, after serving six months in the Danbury federal penitentiary for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), warned the universities that ousted him and thousands of other professors that the purges would decimate the country’s intellectual life.

“You must welcome dissent; you must welcome serious, systematic, proselytizing dissent—not only the playful, the fitful, or the eclectic; you must value it enough, not merely to refrain from expelling it yourselves, but to refuse to have it torn from you by outsiders,” he wrote in his 1959 essay “...From an Exile.” “You must welcome dissent not in a whisper when alone, but publicly so potential dissenters can hear you. What potential dissenters see now is that you accept an academic world from which we are excluded for our thoughts. This is a manifest signpost over all your arches, telling them: Think at your peril. You must not let it stand. You must (defying outside power; gritting your teeth as we grit ours) take us back.”

But they did not take Davis back. Davis, whom I met a few days ago in Toronto, could not find a job after his prison sentence and left for Canada. He has spent his career teaching mathematics at the University of Toronto. He was one of the lucky ones. — Read the full article at, 1,875 words.

Money and Markets

While Ireland imposes Shock Doctrine on its own people

Iceland lets foreign lenders pay for own banking blunders

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
25 November 2010 — Most people know Swift as the author of “Gulliver’s Travels.” But recent events have me thinking of his 1729 essay “A Modest Proposal,” in which he observed the dire poverty of the Irish, and offered a solution: sell the children as food. “I grant this food will be somewhat dear,” he admitted, but this would make it “very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.”

O.K., these days it’s not the landlords, it’s the bankers — and they’re just impoverishing the populace, not eating it. But only a satirist — and one with a very savage pen — could do justice to what’s happening to Ireland now.

The Irish story began with a genuine economic miracle. But eventually this gave way to a speculative frenzy driven by runaway banks and real estate developers, all in a cozy relationship with leading politicians. The frenzy was financed with huge borrowing on the part of Irish banks, largely from banks in other European nations.

— Read the full article at The New York Times, 817 words.

U.S. firm joins India, Japan, Spain in $40 billion Venezuelan oil deals

By Kiraz Janicke

12 May 2010 CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has signed contracts with oil companies from India, Japan, Spain and the U.S. in order to establish two joint venture companies on Wednesday. The companies in turn will invest 40 billion dollars in the country. — Read the full article at, 331 words.

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From the Desk of Mike (the Hammer) Garvin
By John Byrne
24 November 2010 — Rush Limbaugh may have met his match.
An editor from Motor Trend magazine has taken the radio talk show juggernaut to task, shredding Limbaugh after he attacked the magazine's credibility and GM's new electic car, the Chevy Volt.
The attack was fueled by comments Limbaugh made after the magazine named the Volt "Car of the Year." In a fit of Limbaughesque rancor, the editor, Todd Lassa, slammed Limbaugh personally, even going so far as to raise Limbaugh's onetime addiction to the painkiller Oxycontin. — Read the full article at, 702 words.

A little thicker and a little warmer, it might be breathable

Cassini reveals oxygen atmosphere of Saturn's moon

UK Space Agency
26 November 2010 — A very tenuous atmosphere known as an exosphere that is infused with oxygen and carbon-dioxide has been discovered at Saturn's moon Rhea by the Cassini-Huygens mission - the first time a spacecraft has captured direct evidence of an oxygen atmosphere – albeit a very thin one - at a world other than Earth.

The NASA-led international mission made the discovery using combined data from Cassini’s instruments, which includes a sensor designed and built at UCL’s (University College London) Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

Published today in Science Express, results from the mission reveal that the atmosphere of Rhea, Saturn’s second largest moon at 1500 km wide, is extremely thin and is sustained by high energy particles bombarding its icy surface and kicking up atoms, molecules and ions into the atmosphere.

  — Read the full article at UK Space Agency, 286 words.

Reality Check, Honduras

In defence of dictatorship: American media distortions legitimize Honduras regime

By Michael Corcoran

24 November 2010 —  Honduras held elections on November 29, 2009, that were deemed illegitimate by most of the international community and resulted in the presidency of Porfirio Lobo, a conservative politician and agricultural landowner. The election occurred just months after the illegal coup overthrowing President Manuel Zelaya and, as a result of a significant boycott, only included candidates who supported the coup.

At the time of the elections, the US mainstream media had an atrocious record of reporting on the coup itself, as well as on the elections that followed, helping to legitimize a startling attack on Honduran democracy. Despite the illegal nature of the coup and numerous accounts of human rights abuses against supporters of Manuel Zelaya - including violence against protesters, mass arrests and crackdowns on press freedom - the US media portrayed the events in a way that painted Zelaya as a villainous follower of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and legitimized those who ousted him, in part by ignoring their many crimes and abuses.  — Read the full article inside, 2,122 words.

In case you missed it ...
The Old Man's Last Sauna
A collection of short stories by Carl Dow

An eclectic collection of short stories that will stir your sense of humour, warm your heart, outrage your sense of justice, and chill your extra sensory faculties in the spirit of Stephen King. The final short story, the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Sauna is a ground-breaking love story.

The series begins with Deo Volente (God Willing). Followed by The Quintessence of Mr. FlynnSharing LiesFlying HighThe Richest Bitch in the Country or Ginny I Hardly Knows YaOne Lift Too ManyThe Model A Ford, the out-of-body chiller, Room For One Only and O Ernie! ... What Have They Done To You! The series closes with the collection's namesake, The Old Man's Last Saunaa groundbreaking love story. All stories may also be found in the True North Perspective Archives.